Medvedev's 'Stay Calm' Plan Working Wonders in 2018
Daniil Medvedev largely has the same shots that he did a year ago – same forehand, same two-handed backhand, same serve. But mentally, the Russian has morphed into a completely different player.
He used to be beset with anger issues, throwing tantrums on the court or picking fights with umpires. YouTube has some of his best hits.
But this year, Medvedev has found a way to keep calm, and the titles, along with the best season of his career, have followed.
The 22-year-old celebrated his third ATP World Tour crown on Sunday, beating home favourite Kei Nishikori in the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships final in Tokyo. It was Medvedev's first ATP World Tour 500 title, and he made it look stress-free, not dropping a set all tournament after qualifying.
“I know how to be focused only on tennis when I need to, and that's why I started to play even better... This year it has changed a lot and I'm happy about it,” he said.
“ATP 500 is definitely a different thing, beating indoor [great players] like Milos [Raonic], Denis Shapovalov and Kei in his hometown is something amazing... You never win easy but doing this with easy scores, with amazing level of my game, I'm just really happy about myself and I hope to continue improving in this way.”
The improvements, he said, have come from experience. Two years ago, if facing a fight in an ATP World Tour final, Medvedev would have folded, said, “Not today,” and shrugged his shoulders as he walked away with a loss. It almost happened in the third set of the Sydney final against #NextGenATP Aussie Alex de Minaur.
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“I was two breaks up, 4-0, 5-3, my serve. De Minaur comes back, like always. Five-all, 0/40 on his serve, becomes deuce. Probably two years ago I would just said, 'No, I don't want this anymore.' I would lose 7-5, but I managed to win it, my first title,” Medvedev said. “It gave me a big push in the year.”
Medvedev began the season at No. 65 in the ATP Rankings and was hovering around the 50s before he made a last-minute decision to play at the Winston-Salem Open in mid-August. The Russian beat Steve Johnson of the U.S. in the final for his second title.
Watch Highlights: Medvedev Upsets Nishikori In Tokyo
“Winston-Salem was a really big boost in my career, this season, because it made me go up the rankings straight into almost Top 30, and it's definitely another level to be Top 30 than being in the 50s or 60s,” Medvedev said.
He thinks some of his recent success, though, during the North American hard-court swing occurred because of what he did just before stretch began. Medvedev proposed to his girlfriend, and they married on 12 September.
“If it happens like this, you propose to your girlfriend, and you win two titles, one ATP 500, become Top 25, it means that somebody is showing you that you did what you need to do,” said Medvedev, who rose to No. 22 on Monday. “The best end of the season of my life.”
Watch: That's In Medvedev's Bag?
The 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals semi-finalist backed up his Tokyo title on Tuesday at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, where he, despite feeling tired from his long week in Japan, remained calm to beat home favourite Ze Zhang 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4. On Wednesday, for the first time, Medvedev will play defending champion Roger Federer.
The Russian hopes Wednesday's match goes better than their practice session did 18 months ago. “He was just destroying me,” Medvedev said with a smile.
“But it's going be good... because I know that straightaway from the first one I will need to try to put pressure on him also, because that's what he does. If I stay passive, if I'm just going to try to put the ball in the court, that's not going to work out.
“It was my dream probably to play him once, because we all know that his career will not last forever... to play him in the tournament on the central court, especially in a Masters 1000, is something amazing.”